Skin Tags vs. Ticks on Dogs

Skin tags on dogs can be easily confused with other types of growths. Two of the most common misconceptions come from fleas and ticks. Ticks, in particular, are often confused with skin tags on dogs because they tend to latch onto the skin for longer periods of time.

A growth like a skin tag might be discovered initially in the same way as a tick. Most people notice growths on their dog when they are petting them or grooming their fur. Feeling a strange ‘lump’ anywhere on your canine can be cause for concern.

Typically, further investigation is required. That’s when it becomes important to know the difference between these two conditions. Most of the time, skin tags are completely harmless. Depending on where skin tags are located on your dog, it may not even need to be removed.

Ticks, on the other hand, can be very dangerous if not removed and treated. It’s never a good idea to just ‘leave’ a tick on your dog once you discover it. It’s this risk that makes it so imperative to be able to spot a tick and make sure it’s not a skin tag and vice versa.

What Is the Difference Between a Skin Tag and a Tick?

We will focus on the key differences between skin tags and ticks on a dog. We’ll let you know how you can easily identify each problem, and how they should be handled.

It’s easy to feel immediate concern when you see a growth or condition of any kind on your dog’s skin. Fortunately, skin tags are easy to remove and may not require any extra attention at all. But, if your dog has a tick, it must be treated immediately. Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of each so that you can get your dog the potential treatment they may need.

Characteristics of a Skin Tag

A skin tag on a dog will usually appear as a ‘flap’ of skin attached by a stalk. It should normally be the same color as the rest of your dog’s skin, but there can be variations. They are soft, moveable, and typically have a flattened sort of shape. Most skin tags are small, but they can grow to be large.

A growth like this can appear almost anywhere on your dog’s body. However, some of the most common areas include:

It’s more common for them to occur where the skin is softer, or where a lot of friction occurs. For example, your dog may experience growths around their collar area if the material consistently rubs against their skin.

Skin tags can either grow on their own or in small clusters. The underlying cause isn’t completely known, but several factors seem to contribute to their growth. One of those factors is genetics. Some canines seem to be more prone to skin tag growth than others.

Are Skin Tags on a Dog Dangerous?

In most cases, skin tags are completely harmless for your four-legged friend. If you come across one, or several, it doesn’t instantly mean there is something to worry about. Once you know what a skin tag looks like, assume that it’s a healthy, benign growth. They are non-cancerous and don’t typically develop into anything dangerous.

There are rare cases in which a growth like this can develop unnerving characteristics. You should talk to your dog’s vet about the possibility of getting a skin tag removed if:

  • It starts to bleed
  • It becomes red or inflamed
  • It dramatically changes size quickly
  • It starts oozing pus

For the most part, though, regular monitoring of the growth will be sufficient. If you keep an eye on it, you’ll be well-aware of any dangerous changes before they can cause too much harm.

Additionally, you may want to consider removal if your dog seems bothered by the skin tag. It’s unlikely they’ll even notice it. However, certain areas of the body might make it more noticeable than others.

If your dog accidentally scratches or bites at the growth, it can start to bleed and cause pain and even the possibility of infection. Any irritation shouldn’t be ignored. Infection tends to spread quickly, so if the skin tag does become irritated from your dog’s actions, it may be necessary to get it removed.

Characteristics of a Tick

If you’re petting your dog or just feeling their skin, a skin tag and a tick might start off feeling somewhat similar. It’s very important to know how to spot a tick on your dog’s skin, and not confuse it with other possible growths or skin conditions.

The good news is they are usually big enough to spot quite easily. If you feel a bump on your dog, spread apart their fur to check it out. Ticks latch onto your dog’s skin very quickly. They are small, between 1mm and 1cm depending on their maturity level.

A tick will have a spider-like appearance. Their bodies are slightly elongated and almost egg-shaped. A tick that has just latched onto your dog will usually have a white body. Their body will grow in size and become a darker color the longer they are attached to your pet, and the more they are able to feed. Some of the more common areas where ticks attach themselves include:

  • Neck
  • Ears
  • Head
  • Feet

Are Ticks Dangerous?

If you spot a tick on your dog, it’s important to remove it as quickly as possible. They can be very dangerous and transmit diseases. One of the most common diseases associated with ticks is Lyme Disease. If your dog contracts this condition from a tick, it can cause things like a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and swollen joints. It can be very painful and uncomfortable for your pet.

Thankfully, Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that can usually be treated, but it isn’t always easy. Your dog may even have lasting symptoms.

The importance of removing a tick right away comes from the fact that they will continue to feast on your dog’s blood until they are ‘full.’ Then, they’ll usually fall off on their own. By that time, however, the damage is usually done, and the microbes they can contain have likely been passed to your pet.

How to tell ticks and skin tags apart

How to Remove a Tick from Your Dog

Ticks should be removed from your pet carefully. It’s important to try to get the head of the tick completely out, as they tend to burrow deep into the skin. It can be tempting to just squeeze the parasite to kill it. However, that can cause it to release blood back into your dog’s body and increases your pet’s chances of infection.

There are tick removal devices specifically designed to twist away the insect from your dog’s skin. If it hasn’t yet burrowed too deeply, you may be able to remove it completely with a pair of clean tweezers. Again, make sure you get both the head and the body. If the head gets stuck inside your dog, they could still contract a bacterial infection.

It may not be completely possible to prevent ticks from latching onto your furry friend. They can be especially prominent if you live in a wooded area or have taken your dog through a walk in tall grass.

However, there are collars, supplements, and even chewable tick repellents that can be taken to protect your dog against tick bites and repel them altogether. If you live in an area with ticks, it’s worth it to invest in these preventative measures.

You can easily get them from your veterinarian. Different prevention methods may be more suitable for some dogs than others. Deciding on the best one for your dog will help to keep them protected.

Telling Skin Growths Apart

A tick isn’t a type of ‘growth,’ but it can feel that way if you’re petting your dog and notice a bump on their skin. The best thing you can do when you feel any abnormality on your dog is to take a closer look. In some cases, it could be something as harmless as a skin tag. If you take the time to check out an existing skin tag on your dog regularly, they can have it forever with no problems.

Unfortunately, an unexpected bump could also be a tick. As you now know, treatment for ticks and skin tags are completely different. If you do discover a tick on your dog, it needs to be taken care of right away.

Thankfully, the characteristics between a tick and a skin tag are fairly different. Aside from feeling the same at first, their overall look size should make it easy to differentiate the two. Plus, you’re likely to see a tick wiggling its legs or trying to move around. Once you’re able to spot the differences, you can take action in getting rid of the parasite and protecting your dog from infection.